James M. Buchanan and Frank H. Knight on democracy as “government by discussion”

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Among twentieth century inheritors of the classical liberal mantle, the notion that democracy could be understood as “government by discussion” is found most prominently in the work of Frank H. Knight and James M. Buchanan. The purpose of the present paper is to compare Knight and Buchanan’s use of the expression “democracy is government by discussion”. Knight adopted the expression in reference to the means by which (a) individuals coordinate decisions and actions to facilitate constitutional decisions about social action and (b) we coordinate society’s norms and values. For Buchanan, democracy as discussion occurs only at the level of constitutional decisions. Thus, while their use of the expression unites them, it also provides a way of examining the divide between them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-314
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Constitutional political economy
  • Democracy
  • Frank H. Knight
  • Government as discussion
  • James M. Buchanan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'James M. Buchanan and Frank H. Knight on democracy as “government by discussion”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this